Sunday, July 31, 2005

A quick Sunday night post
Here are a few things that caught my eye this week.
First, there is a quick bit in the Washington Post about the Dems messing with the primary: ["GOP Says It Will 'Bury' Name-Calling Candidate"].

But there appears to be more interest in plans that call for keeping Iowa as the site of the first caucuses and New Hampshire as the host of the first primary, but that would insert a few other caucus contests between the two.
In the past, I would have said that it was good for the Dems to think about organized labor when looking at the primary schedule but I would have also said to not worry about the minority issue.
Now, I'm wondering if it is important to worry about either, as far as primaries go.
Many in the labor movement don't always back the candidates who have backed them, as we saw in 2004, when Kucinich and to a lesser extent, Gephardt, true champions of labor, weren't given the support they should have received [Gephardt did receive labor support just not enough to get him past Iowa, which is pretty sad. As I have said before, Gephardt would have beaten Bush in the general]. We have seen labor also cave to Democrats who haven't had the best record on labor and get almost nothing in return. Look at the unions that backed John Kerry in 2004 and look at his abysmal record on the issues of working people.
The minority question is a different matter. Since the bulk of minorities live in major metropolitan areas, the minute you move the primaries to the metropolitan areas, you change the whole dynamic, especially as it comes to money. But what if you moved a caucus into a more populated state instead of a primary? Sure, money would still be needed but more of it would go into organizing and not into ads. A candidate would need money to get people to the caucuses to hang around during that process. This might be an option. Early primaries in large populated states mean big money for the candidate to come up with. It would be a disaster and in the end, wouldn't elevate the needs of minorities one bit. More on this at a later time.
Here is some discussion about the issue over at MyDD: ["Caucus Compromise"].

Three years away, but not that far off: ["In N.H., 2008 isn’t that far off for candidates"].
Next week, a group that wants Hillary Rodham Clinton to run for president plans to spend three days in New Hampshire and start running a television ad. The cartoon ad shows her loading barrels of “Bush’s mess” onto a garbage truck and cleaning it up.
Ugh. I can't believe people think that Hillary is going to fix the nation. She'll never get anything done with a Republican-controlled Congress - unless she does things the way her husband did things when Newt and the others took Congress over in 1994.
Then there is this from the UL about Mitt Romney lining up support: ["Granite Status: Democrats confirm Bass will be targeted in 2006"].
This is also pretty huge: ["Dramatic New Charges Deepen Link Between Ohio's "Coingate," Voinovich Mob Connections, and the Theft of the 2004 Election"]. I don't know if all this "theft" stuff is legitimate. Rigging? Sure. But theft? I don't know. Everyone has been rigging elections for years. It shouldn't surprise anyone at this point.

The record business ... in turmoil: This action against Sony BMG didn't get much play in the press but it is very interesting: ["Biz left to sing the blues"]:
Emails from promotion execs up to the executive VP level spelled out the costs for added spins -- a Jennifer Lopez single required $3,600 in payments to bump it just 63 spins in one week -- as well as flights to Las Vegas for radio execs to see Celine Dion perform.
Wow, that is a lot of money to spend on one song. Why can't radio execs just let stations put together their own playlists? Here is a previous article: ["Spitzer Evidence To Be Handed Over To FCC "].

Carter on Gitmo: ["Carter: Guantanamo Detentions Disgraceful"]. I've always liked President Carter but I am wondering about him of late. His comments here are great; but the more I read about some of the things which went on in his administration, the more I lose respect for him. I guess he is trying to make up for past sins in the present tense.

Very cool science stuff: ["Large New World Discovered Beyond Neptune"].

A sad note to report: ["ManRay closes"].
Since word got out about the club’s shuttering, Gleason says ManRay has been inundated with old regulars who wanted to see the place one last time. "A lot of married couples met in my club," explains Gleason, "so we’ve had a people come out of the woodwork and ask if they could take photos in the corners where they met. It’s amazing."
I used to love going to that place. And yeah, I met my wife there too.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The union bust up
I don't know what to think of this: ["Largest Union Decides to Bolt AFL-CIO"]. On the one hand, the AFL-CIO has made some huge mistakes over the years. I won't even go into how pissed off I was when Lane Kirkland was helping Bill Clinton get NAFTA passed.
But at the same time, the people who are breaking away are the same folks who abandoned Howard Dean in 2004 when it looked like his ship was sinking - instead of sticking with the candidate you endorsed until the very end. What kind of loyalty is that?
They also don't seem to be thinking about the big picture. It isn't about getting national health care - it is about getting decent wages first and job security. Health care should be second.
We all know what some of the problems are with the union movement and the lack of union jobs. But at the same time, some unions have been their own worst enemy by the decisions they have made, the candidates they have backed, and the things they have refused to do. Having worked with a number of union folks over the years, I know about their problems and I have experienced their arrogance first hand. Here's hoping they can work things out. After all, as the bumpersticker says, these are the folks who brought you the weekend.

The latest gossip
Novak has an interesting piece this weekend. He notes that "New York liberals" are worried about Hilary Clinton not being able to win in 2008 and are looking to Richardson. He also notes that when Virginia Gov. George Allen was in New Hampshire recently, activists called his performance, "odd": ["Supreme runner-up"].

Danny Schechter, who has some interesting thoughts and theories, has a new piece on Common Dreams about the 911 Truth Movement: ["Conspiracy Theories and the Fight for Truth"]. Since I am halfway through the very novelesque "9/11 Commission Report," I wonder about some of his points:

Some see a conspiracy behind the 9/11 Commission's conspiracy finding, noting that that body was never really independent, It was instead controlled by staff director Phillip Zelikow, a Republican intelligence professional, who had previously worked and co-authored a book with Condoleezza Rice. It was also peopled by Commissioners and staffers with clear conflicts because of their links to policymakers, the defense industry and oil interests. That included Chairman Kean who was, bizarrely enough, tied into a Saudi Arabian oil enterprise run by two Bin Laden relatives. He sold his shares two weeks before he began chairing the Commission. None of that seem to matter at the time because the news coverage was rarely analytical. The Commission's findings were embraced by most of the mainstream media even as the press proved to be out of step with the public. Several public opinion surveys found that as many as half of the people questioned believed the government either wasn't telling the whole story, or had foreknowledge and didn't act, or, worse, had something do with it.
Isn't that amazing? I don't recall ever hearing about this on television or the radio. A lot of this makes you wonder.
Also, I did a google news search of "Jersey Girls" and all I found was a press release for the Friday event on a New Zealand Web site. When I did a google news search on one of the Jersey Girl's name, Lorie Van Auken, I got a press release from the U.S. Newswire, and a couple of older articles: ["Civil libertarians rally to 'fix' Patriot Act"] and "Families press CIA to release Sept. 11 report," of which the link is dead. However, there is no news on google news about the hearing.
When a search was done on "Mindy Kleinberg," two stories came up: ["Mindy Kleinberg's 9-11 Commission Testimony"] and ["9/11 report brought intelligence reforms"], which wasn't about Friday's hearing. Very interesting.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Quick takes
Here are some interesting stories that have come over the wires the past couple of days.
Close the Doors: First, this one is a shocker: [Door closed on 60s' rockers]. In some ways, Densmore was right on this. It is just too bad that he couldn't join the other two for the opportunity to share their music together. This line is so fitting:

"I'm very pleased that, in my opinion, the legacy is preserved. I never intended for Ray and Robby to stop playing - they're great musicians. I hope Doors fans keep going to see them - it's just the name is owned by me and them and the estate of Jim Morrison, and they kinda ran off with stolen property."
With covers like these, bring on the CDs!: Jeff Kauppi, the frontman from the funny Boston band Natural Toy, sent out this link: [Bad album covers]. This is just too funny. Look at those awful album covers and laugh.
It's Hilary, Hillary, Hillary: Over at, Chris Bowers publishes this post with some Campaign 2008 polling data from possibly late primary states: ["2008 Democratic Primary State Polls"]. He notes that this is the first polling but Quinnipiac did some a few months back.
The numbers are pretty bizarre. Not so much that Hillary is in the lead. She is, unfortunately, the frontrunner. But look at Gore's numbers. I thought he pretty much said he wasn't going to run in 2008. If he did run, and won the nomination, it would be very Nixonian.
Shockingly, Kerry's numbers are still high although way below Hilary's. Even more interesting is the Rendell and Biden New Jersey numbers, 8 and 7 percent, respectively. This goes to show you how influential the Philadelphia and Delaware media markets are on the lower part of the state.
Other things? Low undecideds, considering the scheme of things, and no mention of Sen. Russ Feingold, who is rumored to be thinking about a run. Former Sen. John Edwards is running so he should be higher in the mix. Also, positively abysmal numbers for Sen. Evan Bayh and Gov. Bill Richardson, both of whom are dipping their toes in. Other polls can be found here: [Election 2008 polls].
OKBomb: J.D. Cash has another shocking update about the Oklahoma City Bombing: ["Ex-Green Beret involved in attack?"]. There is that Andreas Strassmeir name again ...
Blogger "disappeared": A popular Iraqi blogger was reportedly apprehended by the Iraqi secret police: ["Another Casualty in Rumsfeld's Information-war"]. So much for bringing the people of Iraq "democracy."
The "framing" wars: This is a long but interesting article: ["The Framing Wars"]. I like how Bai has separated the articles into small packages. But, the problem with all of these theories and the cuddling with the hierarchy of the party is that the Democrats lack any kind of real soul and on the most important issues of the day - finances, trade, the military - they are as bad as Republicans. Out of all the potential 2008 candidates, only Feingold has offered a different voting record than the rest.
All the framing in the world won't do a bit of good if the parties aren't offering divergent ideas and policies. The voters need - and deserve - opposition parties and right now, they are too similar.
Lastly, there is this:

Thursday, July 21, 2005

More headlines worth a looksie

In keeping with the theme of last week's post, here are some more articles worth taking a look at:
First, both James Wolcott and Michael Wolff of Vanity Fair, have blistering pieces in the August edition which are worth the price at the newstand.
Wolcott's piece, ["To Live and Die in Iraq,"] analyzes the lack of media integrity and the tabloidism that surrounds us all at a time when the media should be covering important issues, like what is going on in Iraq. Wolcott takes a particularly harsh view of the annual Washington correspondents dinner, in which Laura Bush lightheartedly mocked her husband. This line gives you the tone of the piece:
It's hard for cable-news networks to amp up the umpteenth American soldier killed by a roadside explosive or another bushel of Iraqi recruits blown to scatteration when it's so much juicier chasing the lastest "Amber Alert" for an abducted white girl, choppering over a tense hostage standoff, or swarming the hot celebrity trial that's inciting Nancy Grace to spit tacks at any defense lawyer who dares defend his or her client (you know, just on the quaint off chance that the bozo might be innocent).
Wow, what prose. It brilliantly goes on and on from there. You can't read it online but Wolcott has a blog here: [James Wolcott].
[Sidebar: I was able to find it online after all when I goggled it. The link is above].
Wolff's piece, ["How to get away with Murder,"] touches upon some similar issues but more along the lines of, Who are these egomaniacs who get away with corruption over and over and over again and why aren't they in jail?

DeLay, Trump, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and Sharpton (each, in his way, a gargoyle, grotesque, troglodyte) are surely unlikely heroes - they just did what came naturally (you may doubt their sincerity, but you don't doubt that their shtick is real), and perhaps it's as great a surprise to them as it is to so many reasonable people that they found an audience.

This is a pop-culture phenomenon (the legacy of rock 'n' roll and cable culminating in reality television): lots of people paying you to be as distasteful as you are, with so much money involved that you're raised from freak-show standing—so even Michael Jackson gets away with it.

Indeed, with a mass of outspoken loyalists and a substantial enough cash flow to keep happy the people who would otherwise abandon you in a second, you don't have to pretend to be something other than what you are. You're branded.

Yup, the planet is going to hell in a handbasket.

If you aren't subscribing to VF, you should be. VF is one of the last good monthlies worth your time and it is one of the only magazines I subscribe to because I just don't have the time to read magazines anymore. See previous posts about hot bathes and VF!
However, there are always two to three decent pieces in VF worth reading every month. It is worth the $15 a year. Plus, the ads are always worth a good look - just don't spend too much time wishing you looked like some of those male models or could afford all the latest New York or Italian styles. :) It's never gonna happen!

The importance of local media
During a recent vacation trip to the Cape, I decided our family would stay at an inexpensive motel with the minimum of amenities in order to enjoy the vacation as much as possible at the lowest cost [For example, outdoor and indoor pools are a necessity to keep the family peace; yet wi-fi accessiblity is not so important].
I tend to be a bit on the frugal side when it comes to things like this. Why stay at a $100-plus per night motel when you can get almost the same thing at a $50 per night motel and pocket the difference? Spend it on a nice dinner or wine instead. Plus, you aren't there to be in the motel, are you? You're on the Cape to be out of the motel, doing stuff. Sure, for almost five days I had to live without Internet service. But big deal. I was there to get away from the computer! I was later able to find a low cost kiosk I could use once during the stay just to make sure everything was OK [Later, on the way out of the Cape, I found a local coffee shop with free wi-fi. So, next time, I know where to go].
Having said that, it was shocking to realize just how dependent on the computer and the Web I have become, especially when seeking basic information and communication. With email replacing letters - and many of them of a timely nature - being away from email for any length of time can make things a tad difficult. Also with basic information, such as news, it is getting harder and harder to get it from the usual sources, as noted in the above Wolcott piece.
Having to watch television for real information was a disaster beyond the weather during the period I was on vacation watching Boston and Providence television stations. I was literally starving for information about, well, anything. And this is no surprise: As we all have heard time and time again, five companies control what 80 percent of the public watch on television; another 10 companies control two-thirds of what people hear on the radio. Those big companies don't want you knowing what is going on, whether it is down the street or across the world.
Sure, I know that Jude Law slept with his cute blonde nanny and is now no longer engaged to his hot dirty-blonde B-movie actress fiancee. "Lewd Law" and "Lewd Jude" were just two of the more amusing headlines from the national tabs. But, unfortunately, I don't know much about what is going on in Iraq, which is much more important than anything some stupid actor has done or will do.
Thankfully, there was a local newspaper and radio station which kept me informed during my stay trying to "get away from it all ..."
On the radio side, I was looking forward to checking out WADT 95.9 FM out of Marshfield. The station has won a slew of Associated Press and Edward R. Murrow Awards over the years and was even recently featured in a segment on Channel 2's "Greater Boston." The highlight of the show? The local owner and his news staff. They have three regular news staffers and the owner even goes out into the field to get stories! He was a funny old guy and you could tell his heart was in the right place. And all the awards on the wall signify as much too. In between the news, the station plays pop oldies - anywhere from the Beach Boys, to Blondie, to 1970s AM Gold - which isn't a bad mix. It is a pretty neat setup although the news didn't impress me as much as I hoped it would. There was AP National News at the top of the hour, some good local stories, mostly local government stuff, with some reports from the State House and traffic reports. But there wasn't anything that blew me away in the sense that this station is award-winning. Maybe it was because it was the summertime and news is, as we all know, slow in the summer. Or, maybe it is because there are so few small market radio stations in New England doing what these guys are doing. Plus, awards tend to be the best of the year. Not every broadcast is award-winning, despite the work you put into it.
I loved the live traffic reports during the afternoon drive from listeners. That was really great.
Over on the print side, I really enjoyed reading the Cape Cod Times. A broadsheet, the Times seemed to have just the right amount of content although I noticed on Tuesday and Wednesday that there were few local stories. The Sunday edition was great; just enough stuff to read without starting to get too overwhelming.
Of course, I have been reading columnist Sean Gonsalves for a very long time because his columns are often picked up by Common Dreams. So, it was nice to actually see him in print instead of online.
In the Sunday Forum section, there was this great piece by Jay Lindsay of the AP about the importance of the printing press and a museum in North Andover honoring its history: ["Museum Shows Power of the Printing Press"].
On Wednesday, the Times put the John Roberts Jr. nomination on the front page, like other papers around the country. The local reporter, Jessica Alaimo, was able to put together a quick story with some press releases from both Kerry and Kennedy.
Interestingly, Kennedy, the supposed great "liberal lion" of the Senate, went off on Roberts, saying that some of the questions the Senate must ask of Roberts included, Will he protect average Americans when their rights are abused by powerful corporations?; and, Will he separate his personal ideology from the rule of law and protect the rights and freedoms of all Americans and not just the powerful or the wealthy? The same could be asked of the senior senator from Massachusetts, the same senator who voted for NAFTA, GATT/WTO, and PMFN trade status for China. The same senator who has voted for hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate welfare and bloated military budgets. Sigh.

Other stuff
Primary movers: Adam Reilly over at the Boston Phoenix has an update on the Democrat's primary situation: ["Primary movers"]. I doubt New Hampshire or Iowa would lose their status but it would be fun to set up an interesting and invigorating process in states after Iowa and New Hampshire.
Borking history: Speaking of the SCOTUS, check out this overview by FAIR of revisionist history concerning the Robert Bork nomination: ["Borking" History]. I especially love the way the FAIR folks just dive into LexusNexus and find out all this stuff. That would be a very cool job!
Oil rich starvation: ["3.6 million face starvation in Niger if the world does not respond"] Millions are starving in Niger yet Chevron and Shell continue to pump oil and make millions. Why aren't the people being taken care of there?
A wake up call for Mitchell: Well, don't like the way you're being treated, eh? Maybe you shouldn't be where you are. Or, maybe our government shouldn't be where it is. Or, maybe, just maybe, you are getting a wake up call about what the rest of the world is going through when the butt of a gun is smacking you in the head for doing nothing more than existing or wanting your freedom. Eh, Mitchell, wife of Alan Greenspan, controller of the world's financial markets? ["NBC's Mitchell Angry After Sudan Incident"].

Friday, July 15, 2005

Some headlines worth giving a once over
The new edition of the Columbia Journalism Review has a few really good pieces worth looking at which unfortunately are not online.
The first is called "The Crowded Theater," with a line suggesting that "it's time for American journalism to rise out of its defensive crouch," by Douglas McCollam, a contributing editor at CJR. It is a pretty biting overview of the pathetic state of the mainstream news organization, which as we all know is in the toilet right now. It takes off from the point of the Newsweek Koran "debacle" and goes from there. Beyond that non-story though, there are some real problems with the media today. When we see more about Brad Pitt's meningitis on our local news stations than local news, or stories like the ones that are posted here today, then we all have a lot to worry about. Also, we normal folks out here in the real world know what the problems are with the news and media.
I particularly like this McCollam line right here, where he suggests that lawsuits derived from investigative journalism gone awry are the smallest of the media world's worries:
The prospect of defending the case is deterrent enough for many a penny-pinching publisher. These are the same corporate cost-cutters who are constantly justifying their penury by citing hemorrhaging circulation. Declining readership and sagging newstand sales have fed a general malaise in journalism, and combined with increasing corporate insistence on profit margins of 20 percent to 30 percent, have put a big squeeze on print news. Staff cuts mean less enterprise journalism and promote a sense among reporters that a lot of important stuff doesn't make it into the newspaper.
Such a blisteringly honest and accurate indictment of the current state of some print journalism outlets right now. It is so sad because these outlets are so vital to open governmental processes.
Another article in this month's edition is a bit more high brow, if you will. "Off Course" takes a look at the New York Time's coverage of pop culture and how it often misses half the story.
Over six and a half pages, the author, Michael Massing, makes some intriguing points about how trendy the coverage is, noting that despite a huge staff working on the section [I thought he mentioned a specific staff number but after scanning the pages a few times, I couldn't find it], the paper misses a lot of components to the pop culture puzzle. Massing notes that more coverage is given to the new fall television lineups or the demographics of a television audience, than how that audience is affected or what middle America might think of this issue. The business end of pop culture is covered more than pop culture itself, he notes in detail. He suggests correctly that the NYT should spend more time trying to bring middle America to New York than worrying about bringing New York to middle America.
While I am personally more worried about the NYT's sad news coverage than the pop culture coverage, the problem goes to the heart of the entire journalism problem: How you use your resources and to what end. If an editor or publisher is constantly going after trends, instead of quality, those bosses are going to miss a lot.
Two other articles I haven't read, "Bitter Pill," about the lack of journalism research into new perscription drugs, and "Quest for Fire," about one writer's attempt to find a good small market paper to work for, look like good stories too.
Here's hoping that some powerful people read these important articles.

Other stuff
For a number of years, I have been writing and talking about the Oklahoma City Bombing case and the things with the case that just don't add up. There are a lot of them, BTW. I have also highlighted the work of one important reporter, J.D. Cash, of the McCurtain Gazette, who has been one of the only folks from the journalism world to look at any of this stuff. Here is J.D.'s latest bombshell, no pun intended: ["Former DOJ officials claim OKC Bombing coverup began in D.C."].
William Greider, a great exposer of the truth about "free trade," will be speaking in Manchester on Saturday. Here is a piece from the HippoPress about him: ["Q &A - William Greider, Telling it like it is"].
Regular Politizine reader SlaterSue has a new blog about, on of all things, gardening!: ["Downtown Tomatoes"].
Western Primary idea gets an institutional supporter: ["Western States Primary: Eight-state election would be good for all concerned"].

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Congratulations to me!
Earlier this week, I received a letter from General President Harold Schaitberger of the International Association of Fire Fighters [IAFF] informing me that I received an Honorable Mention in the IAFF's 2005 Media Awards Contest. An editorial I wrote for The Winchester Star in August 2004 - "Yes to ALS, No to Union-Busting" - was the piece that received the award. In it, I chastised the town for implementing ALS without properly negotiating the new service with changes to the union's contract. In thanking me, Schaitberger wrote:
"IAFF members across the U.S. and Canada appreciate the work you have done to expose the importance of safe staffing and equipment in fire departments, a vital issue for the IAFF and professional fire fighters."
According to its Web site, the International Association of Fire Fighters Media Awards Contest is conducted annually to honor reporting and photography that best portray the professional and dangerous work of fire fighters and emergency personnel in the United States and Canada. Schaitberger wrote that I will be given a certificate by the fire union sometime in the near future.
Interestingly enough, Winchester's fire union got almost all of their demands from the implementation of ALS after going to arbitration, although you wouldn't know that from reading The Star which hasn't published the specifics of the matter, despite prodding from me. A small entry into the Town Meeting Spring Warrant noting more money given to the union was all that amounted from the coverage. According to sources I talked to later on, the arbiter criticized the behavior of both town officials and the fire chief for their actions in handing the matter.
So, hooray for me, for writing what was right, just, decent, and honest, which is all that can be expected from an editorialist. Woo hoo! :-)
The IAFF editorial
Here is a reprint of the editorial from last year.

Editorial: Yes to ALS, no to union-busting
The Winchester Star
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

As the old saying goes: It is not whether you win or lose, it is how you play the game.
This classic adage is used to teach our children respect and tolerance, especially in sporting events. Everyone is a winner, we tell our children, whether they score a goal or strike out.
We all know that in the real world, the adage rings hollow. No matter how we try to instill these timeless values in our children, adults quickly forget this wise saying.
Take municipal finance and union negotiations, where these principles are completely lost on those who should be finding acceptable compromises and playing the game fairly.
Last week, officials proudly touted the implementation of an Advanced Life Support system by the town's fire department. They called their decision a win for the town. But residents should be careful not to celebrate the decision because the way town officials handled themselves was deplorable and will only bring more future problems.
The workings between a union and a town can be very complicated. And because the negotiations between the two are held in executive session and out of the public view, we don't always know the entire story. However, after a contract is settled, the people and the press can request documentation and analyze the contracts and find out if these decisions were the best ones.
For example, earlier this year, we wrote an editorial critical of the School Committee's new teacher contract based on preliminary information we received from the department. A few months later, after seeing specifics from the contract, the Board of Selectmen were even more critical of the contracts. One of the reasons they were so upset was because town officials were in the process of negotiating new contracts with town employees. This, at a time when the town was trying to get the unions to concede various contract issues - an extremely difficult proposition after the other unions saw the school union's deal. One of those concessions was health care - an out of control cost the town needed to rein in to balance future budgets.
At the same time, the town has been trying to implement ALS service in the fire department. ALS will bring in at least an additional $150,000 to the town's coffers. The union also wants to offer ALS. But to its credit, they want to offer the service at the same level the town currently receives which means the town won't make as much money.
Right now, the town is covered by a "nine man minimum" and two private ALS paramedics. The decision by the town means that only the nine man minimum team will be covering the town. This increase in work for the firefighters changes their contract, something the union has to agree to. The union rejected the change and the town foolishly - and dangerously - implemented ALS anyway, essentially busting the union's clout.
This cut in staffing coverage comes at a time when Winchester's fire department coverage is below federal safety standards. The town's population is also getting older and older, meaning more ambulance activity. The town's ambulance will now venture out on longer trips, leaving the town understaffed and unprotected in case of a deadly fire ... all for $150,000.
The result of such action by a town is usually a strike, a work stoppage or lawsuits. The firefighters can't go on strike, but they will sue, and will probably win. This will cost the town even more money in lawsuits settlements, lawyer fees, higher salaries and stress. And heaven help the resident who is injured by a fire or a late ambulance due to the lack of proper staffing in the fire department.
Instead of putting everyone through all of this, why not come up with a revised contract that both sides can agree to in the first place? Why is the town more concerned about making a profit than providing the proper service? Why aren't town officials respecting the men who put their lives on the line to save all of us in case of an emergency? It is befuddling and unacceptable.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

War and Peace: The Spirit of 9-11 on the Silver Screen
Guest Perspective/Roy Morrison
For Martha Brickett, in memoriam
My son Sam, 12, had just finished another day of baseball camp. It was raining hard. Instead of a trip to an All Star team evening practice, we went to see Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" on opening day.
I don't know what the critics will say. But it was a rather dark and sometimes claustrophobic movie of humans on the run from pitiless alien monsters.
Two things struck me about this "War of the Worlds." First, as Sam and I played long toss in the road after we came home, whipping the baseball long distances, it occurred to me that I threw better than Tom Cruise's movie character, the reluctant hero-dad. And second, that "War of the Worlds" was as good a depiction of the American bruised psyche after 9-11 that we are likely to see.
As the invasion begins, there's a strange turbulence in Spielberg's sky, followed by an intense lightening storm repeatedly striking the same spot in the New Jersey pavement, then the ground splitting before astonished spectators, buildings toppling, an alien war machine emerging from the earth, death rays destroying houses, vaporizing people, flipping a huge bridge on its side.
Suddenly, we are at war and on the run, not from H.G. Wells' Martians. Our antagonists in Spielberg's film are an even more sinister enemy whose buried machines, like Al Qaeda sleeper cells, were hidden in our midst, beneath our very feet. This was an enemy meticulously planning our destruction while we lived our innocent pre-attack lives.
As in the book, the aliens are undone by our earth's ubiquitous microcosm with whom we have evolved, while the aliens have not, to ultimately fatal effect. It's the natural world that we treat with ecological disrespect that saves us, not technology, not the world's most potent military.
Indeed, it's a flock of birds landing on top of an alien fighting machine that discloses their weakness.
There is, of course, the Hollywood story of a divorced dad on an epochal trek from New Jersey to Boston, saving his daughter and being reunited with his teenage son. There are also more nuanced messages about war bringing out the best and worst in us, about acts of kindness and courage, and of selfishness and desperation, about hard, bad choices. And in the end, it is family, not broader social values that triumph, while the earth itself defeats our antagonists.
War of the Worlds captures the emotional subtext of shock and victimhood that 9-11 visited upon Americans. The consequences of its emotional impact clearly go far beyond the slaughter of innocents and the destruction of buildings in the attack by a handful of terrorist fanatics .
The psychic wounds of 9-11 were essential in helping the Bush administration lead the United States to war in Iraq, and for its arguments to continue the fight. 9-11 is the justification for torture, not only of real Al Qaeda prisoners, but of unfortunates in Abu Garib and Guantanamo. 9-11 justifies imprudent military spending, the USA Patriot Act and other assaults upon our privacy and civil liberties.
Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" may or may not be great cinema. But I find it a compelling dramatization of the pain that 9-11 inflicted upon the soul and spirit of Americans. Viewed in this way, the movie can help us understand this pain and see that the solution to the problem posed by our antagonists will not ultimately come from the power of our weapons, but from the resources and strengths of our democratic society, our families and communities that we have at hand and need struggle to maintain.
Roy Morrison is an energy consultant and writer in Warner, N.H. His latest book is Eco Civilization 2140: A 22nd Century History and Survivor's Journal (forthcoming).

Monday, July 11, 2005

Rock Star: INXS
I'm not a big "reality TV" person. I'm not a big TV person, unless it is news or C-Span or movies. But, I have been intrigued by two new music-based reality shows.
The first was "Hit Me Baby One More Time," a contest show where a bunch of bands who had hits from the 80s perform their famous song and then another song from today, and the audience then picks the band which wins the night.
Not surprisingly, the audience lacks taste in a big way. They honestly didn't pick the best performances on the couple of shows I saw. For example, the audience picked that buffoon Vanilla Ice over Tommy Totune, The Motels, and The Knack. I mean, be real. The still beautiful Martha Davis was great after all these years. The Knack were as good as they always were. And, "867-5309" was as crisp and clear as it always was. Then, the fool white rapper hit the stage. Please. Pathetic.
Another problem with the show is that not all the original band members appear in the contest. For example, when Missing Persons was on, only Dale Bozzio was reportedly on stage [Sorry babe, no Warren Cuccurullo, who supposedly told Duranies on their site that he was going to be playing Bozzio, sigh]. Davis was the only one from her band. At the same time, The Knack had three of the four original members, which was cool and show the whole band solidarity thing [Sidebar: "My Sharona" is allegedly on President George W. Bush's iPod. Can you imagine the president riding around on his bike or jogging to the lyrics, "Never gonna stop, give it up. Such a dirty mind. Always get it up for the touch of the younger kind"? I guess it is no worse than Sen. John McCain or Ambassador Alan Keyes slam dancing to Nine Inch Nails ...]
This then brings me to the other reality show, "Rock Star: INXS," which aired tonight for the first time and will air on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Originally, I wasn't too keen on this program, being a huge INXS fan. I have all of their records and I've probably saw them four or five times, at least. The very last time I saw them was at the cavernous Matthews Arena when they were touring for the brilliant "Full Moon, Dirty Hearts," with the amazing Catherine Wheel in support.
In fact, when I heard about the INXS reality show, I assumed the worst, as noted here in a column I wrote for The Winchester Star last summer: ["Summer music doldrums"]. I mean, how can you even conceive of such a silly thing. Why would serious artists subject themselves to such a trivial sideshow circus? The show is even hosted by Brooke Burke, that dingbat calendar model, so you know it has the potential of entering the ridiculous, not unlike anything on E! But then, poof, there is Dave Navarro, formerly of the Jane's Addiction and the Red Hot Chilly Peppers, helping out, attempting to give the show some cool cred [Why didn't they have babe Carmen Electra hosting this thing? Dave could have probably gotten her the gig ...].
In the end, the show wasn't half bad. Sure, the whole "rock star" thing is a bit annoying; singers should strive to be good songwriters before trying to be rock stars, but that would defeat the whole purpose of the "reality show" now wouldn't it. But most of the performances were pretty good. The side comments were funny and despite the whole geared-for-the-teen market thing, it wasn't a wasted hour of TV. I will definitely consider watching more of the show. But I am beginning to miss the days of the very bad unfunny sitcom.

Some other stuff
The Times of London is reporting that the terrorists involved in the commuter bombings used military explosives: ["Terrorist gang 'used military explosives'"].
They also believe that the materials used were not home made but sophisticated military explosives, possibly smuggled into Britain from the Balkans. “The nature of the explosives appears to be military, which is very worrying,” said Superintendent Christophe Chaboud, the chief of the French anti-terrorist police, who was in London to help Scotland Yard.
Question: How did "terrorists" manage to get access to "military explosives"? Second question: Is Al Qaida, the alleged terrorists involved in this plot, hanging out in the Balkans? At this rate, Al Qaida are either everywhere or they are just the target of record for now. There isn't any proof this is Al Qaida, yet the American press is blaming it on Al Qaida!
While I'm not a huge fan of Media Matters, they have been doing some great work about the media's reaction to the London bombing. They totally eviscerate FoxNews on the site of late, including quotes and clips of their hosts saying the most outrageous things, like this, from managing editor Britt Hume: "... my first thought when I heard" about the attack "and I saw the futures this morning," was "Hmmm, time to buy." Or this one, by the Big Boob [oops, sorry, that was Show] host John Gibson: "By the way, just wanted to tell you people, we missed -- the International Olympic Committee missed a golden opportunity today. If they had picked France, if they had picked France instead of London to hold the Olympics, it would have been the one time we could look forward to where we didn't worry about terrorism. They'd blow up Paris, and who cares?" Wow, lots of sympathy there, eh? But, not shockingly, there are a lot of folks here in America who think the same thing, unfortunately.

It's over, it's over, it's over!
This is worth a quick read: ["Redstone: Age of Media Conglomerate Over"]. I could have told you that all that consolidation was a bad idea. Hmm, now that I think about it, I did!

Hello Mark!
Mark Jurkowitz of the Boston Phoenix now has his own Media Log: ["Media Log 2"].

Making use of one's self
Bush's daughter Barbara is going to South Africa to work with people with AIDS: ["Bush daughter working in S. Africa"]. Let's hope this gives her a good dose of humility. There is always hope.
This weekend, at a family event, my cousin's wife was telling us about her trips to Afghanistan for contract work for a big construction firm. When she got home from the first trip, and my cousin was complaining about the house they just bought and the small problems it has, she said, "We live in a castle ..."
So, there is hope for the little Bush just yet. Lastly, while none of us are perfect, you have to wonder about "staff editors" who misspell George. :-) Although, it is Zimbabwe.

Monday, July 4, 2005

Happy 4th
The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies
In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The signers of the Declaration represented the new states as follows:
New Hampshire - Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts - John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island - Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut- Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York - William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey - Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania - Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware - Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland - Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia - George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina - William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina - Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton Georgia - Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton